Essence Festival of Culture is a music, inspiration and empowerment event that takes place annually in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was started in 1995 as a party to celebrate the 25th birthday of the iconic magazine, Essence. The success of the event led the organizers to bring it back every year. Essence Festival celebrated its 25th year in 2019.
The idea behind the event is to empower and provide a platform to speakers, musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs of the African-American community. Since its small beginnings, it has grown into the largest and most successful event of its kind in the nation. Over 500,000 people from all over the country and the world gather in New Orleans every year to enjoy the festivities.
The star-studded lineup for the music festival portion of the event features some of the biggest names in music, including several Grammy Award winners. Artists like Mary J. Blige, Big Freedia, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Brian McKnight, Kendrick Lamar, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, and John Legend have performed at the event in the past.
In addition to the music concerts, the event also features conferences, exhibitions, a wellness house, and a sprawling marketplace.
Essence Music Festival tickets to the evening concerts go on sale a few months before the event. They sell out fast, so it's a good idea to make your purchase as soon as possible. You may need to buy tickets for the three-day weekend if single-day passes are not available.
Tickets typically cost anywhere between $190 to $2700 depending on the row in which you are seated and its proximity to the stage. You also have the option of purchasing a VIP Power Pass, which will give you access to all the evening concerts as well as any other festival experiences.
The music concerts take place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome located at Sugar Bowl Drive in New Orleans. It is a large landmark that you can easily find using your favorite GPS app. Motorists may encounter significant traffic delays on the days of the event, so it may be best to leave larger vehicles at your campsite and take public transportation to the Superdome. When planning your trip to New Orleans, call 511 or download the festival app to keep track of any road alerts issued in the area.
Plenty of paid public parking is available at the Superdome during the Essense Festival for cars. There are several parking garages as well as two surface lots. Patrons with disabilities will have access to designated ADA parking spots. Only cash will be accepted at the garages, so go prepared accordingly. While limited RV parking might be available at the Superdome, you may also perfer to leave your rig at your campsite and use public transport to get to the venue.
Typically Essense Festival organizers partner with various companies to offer shuttles services to festival guests. There will be pickup points throughout the city. Another option is to take a bus operated by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA). You may find a stop about half a mile from the venue.
Onsite camping options are not offered as part of the Essence Music Festival, but New Orleans has plenty of RV parks and campgrounds to choose from within the region. You’ll find several well-equipped ones within a 15-mile radius.
The historic French Quarter neighborhood is less than two miles from the venue. There are some excellent RV parks in this area that come highly recommended. Staying here will not only give you the opportunity to enjoy the festival but also explore the famous art and architecture of the city. New Orleans KOA is a little over ten miles away and offers sites with full hookups.
Once you’re in the arena, you’ll need to get around on foot. Skates, Segways, scooters, bicycles, or skateboards will not be allowed within the stadium. The site is ADA compliant, and there will be accessible pathways throughout the grounds. Separate viewing areas will be provided for patrons with disabilities.
There’s one word that describes New Orleans in the summer: hot. Make sure you wear clothing made from lightweight, breathable fabrics. Wear sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen for an added layer of protection. The venue will be crowded, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so comfortable, closed shoes are recommended.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has a strict clear-bag policy. Only clutch bags and clear gallon-sized Ziploc bags will be permitted. You can also pre-order clear bags sold by Essence for use during the festival. It’s a good idea to restrict the items you take with you to the bare essentials. Secure the rest of your gear safely at your campsite.
Beat the brutal summer heat by drinking plenty of water. Downloading the Essence Festival app ahead of the event is a great way to plan your trip and decide which of the entertainment options you’d like to experience. Fans can also contact festival personnel through the app if you require information or assistance.
If all you want is a simple meal cooked over a fire after a day of indulgent eating, pick up supplies and head to your campsite. Some campgrounds in the area have onsite convenience stores where you can pick up basic groceries. It may be desirable to do the bulk of your grocery shopping before arriving in the Downtown New Orleans area. Ask your camp manager if there are any RV camping rules you should be aware of before lighting a campfire.
New Orleans has a legendary food scene, and curious travelers may want to include a visit to local eateries in an RV vacation. If you wish to dine at an award-winning restaurant or grab a quick bite at a fast-food joint, you'll find a multitude of options near the Superdome and within the neighboring French Quarter district.
Hungry Essence Festival patrons will have a range of delicious food to indulge in, from tasty southern comfort dishes to fresh seafood. There’s a good chance that you’ll find something that tickles your taste buds. Vegans and vegetarians will have plenty of options to choose from as well.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is a massive venue that accommodates thousands of people. The safety of patrons is taken very seriously. Bags will be searched at the entrances, and you'll be required to pass through a metal detector. If you’re not carrying a bag, you may be allowed to enter through the express lane.
July weather is likely to be hot and humid, so it's important to stay hydrated at all times in Louisiana. Thunderstorms or showers can also occur unexpectedly. Fortunately, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has covered seating, so you won’t need to worry about light showers. If the weather turns unexpectedly severe, some shows may be called off during the Essense Festival of Culture.
First aid will be available onsite at the venue. Dehydration is one of the main causes of medical emergencies at the event. Drink plenty of water to avoid a trip to the first aid station. If you need assistance, you can flag down one of the festival staff or security personnel and they will be happy to guide you.